Category Archives: compassion

My Lawrence Ferlinghetti Story, part 2

Some poems insist on being sent to the one who inspired them. I try to follow that impulse, but sometimes I lose track. My poem, “Ferlinghetti Speaks,” was one of those. It was written in 2002, but I didn’t send it to him until 2014.

The push to send it was his 95th birthday and the sense that time was running out to do it. Probably urged by my voice teacher, Kip, I emailed City Lights Booksellers (begun years back by Ferlinghetti in San Francisco) to see if that was the best address to send my poems inspired by him. The staff got back to me in 1 1/2 days: “Yes, if you send them c/o the store, they will be passed on to him. Thanks.”

Encouraged, I wrote a short letter and mailed it with the two poems (the one below included). I did not hear back, but that wasn’t the point. I did what I felt strongly I wanted / needed to do and that was enough. I wanted to tell someone that they inspired me, that who they were or what they did or wrote mattered, enough to take my time to tell them.

I felt so strongly about this, wanting to avoid regrets, as alluded to in this poem, because of previous experiences when I waited too long. So here is the second poem I sent to Lawrence Ferlinghetti, part of my honoring his passing.

3/25/14

Someone Posted on Facebook

Lawrence Ferlinghetti is 95 today
and I never did send him that poem he inspired
by his inspired reading in Chicago that day
that turned the compass needle sideways and
the streets in the Loop ran in perpendicular directions

no lie
until things settled down out of the long shadows
out back in the sun, back in touch
with the ground and the somewhere blue sky.

I considered sending him the poem
considered writing the back story
even tracked down the San Francisco address
of City Lights Booksellers
but each time I talked myself out of it

intimidated maybe
or not high enough on the crowded list
or waves of life knocking me flat sometimes.
You would think I’d learned after Vonnegut’s death,
and Susannah’s, how the good ideas, the kindnesses
left undone are the things later that haunt you
not every day, but sometimes.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2014

From Thrown Again into the Frazzle Machine

The poem, “Ferlinghetti Speaks” is in My Ferlinghetti Story, part 1

Steep Street to the Bridge, San Francisco, Copyright 2007, Margaret Dubay Mikus

Still Time

10/27/20

Still Time

Inspired by an incredibly talented woman
(from Wei’s post)

Quietly watching
the light come back
into the world
In midst of these times
patient
if not trusting
willing to wait and see
before jumping headlong
into the dark uncertainty
Find some ground
plant feet firmly
You are that ground
for me
And you out there
are the ground for somebody

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2020

An offering from my poetic journal.

November Sunset, M D Mikus, Copyright 2018

Self-Kindness

Self-Kindness

For a dear friend (and me)

To let yourself
be yourself
even encourage those aspects
that have been hidden
to come into the sun
even those facets you thought
you could reveal to no one.

To baptize the whole
with kindness
that is enough
you are enough
on your chosen journey
of loving acceptance.
Be gentle and kind to you as if

you were someone else.
Remember you cannot give
from your essence
depleting your core strength
but only from your excess.
So practice just this one thing:
self-kindness

to build the reserves
from which you can draw
in service.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2014

This poem ends my book, Thrown Again into the Frazzle Machine: Poems of Grace, Hope, and Healing. It has been popping into my head for a week, so here it is. For me to remember…and maybe you too?

THROWN AGAIN into the FRAZZLE MACHINE: Poems of Grace, Hope, and Healing

Dinner with Geary–Connecting through Poetry

7/24/17

Dinner with Geary

On the good days
what comes between here and there
the before and after, now and then
the necessary transition
the clarifying calm after the storm
the personal and the political
is messy but manageable

On the bad days
fear overrides all good instinct
kindness mistaken for weakness
brute control at any cost, manipulation
mistaken for power and yet…
even here in abject darkness
a sliver of light, or a crack

that lets light in or a smidgeon of hope
What kind of question opens the door
to the path, not laid out in advance
but created new under each separate footfall?
Why tell you this—or ask you
to consider not losing hope, not despairing?

We are each a dot in a context
a deliberate point in a pointillist painting
It is the context, the perspective
I offer for consideration

And we are each a universe entire
autonomous yet connected in a web
of strands seen by some, felt by others
maybe you are one, if what you once knew
when you came here has not been pounded down
If you can still recognize what is true:
We were made for these times

To remember, hold to beauty, inspire
Not as in human cold marble statues
of superficial shallow perfection
but embodied spirits, warmly human
unwitting gods of creation, fragile and powerful
at least a bit willing.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2017

In looking for something else, I found this poem and realized I had not heard from my friend, Geary, in quite a while, since we had met for dinner at a favorite Thai restaurant. I realized I had not sent him the poem that came out of our conversation. I decided to email it to him to check and see if he was ok. He got back to me right away and had quite a story to tell. As he said, once again our lives were in parallel. Here is this poem for you too. What has inspired you lately?

Chicago Roof with Pigeon, by Margaret Dubay Mikus, Copyright 2012

Turning “Wagon Wheel” into…Something Else

How will we participate in creating the new world that is becoming, all of us contributing something? What I want to know is: what will inspire the best in us, the most kindness and compassion? How do we keep going in times of trouble and not sink, exhausted, into despair? What will you make from what you have been given, your unique perspective and vision?

On Facebook, in September, singer / songwriter/ performer / artist, Joe Crookston, posted a new video of how he had created a new song from the words of a tired old song (“Wagon Wheel”). I like the metaphor of this process. Watch the video here.

And that inspired me to write this:

9/16/19

Turning “Wagon Wheel” into…Something Else

Inspired by Joe Crookston

Take what doesn’t work—
are you listening—
chop it up, not even all
that compulsively straight

But use it all to create
something else
use it all according to
rules you made up yourself

I like the new song
I like the metaphor
I like the process
the cutting , the choices, the paste

I like the melody, the voice
the instruments, the video of all of it
the hope, the inspiration
the conscious letting go of outcome

I like the decision to share
to include, to invite in. And
in joyful wonder at the birth of a new song
I soaked it in and sang along

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2019

Writing this new poem reminded me of resonant lines from an earlier poem:

“uses the bricks from the wall
to make something else altogether.”

Here is that poem:

2/25/03

The Poet

I am my mother’s daughter
and I am the Mother of my Self—
one who made the form
and one who filled it.

And I am the mother of my daughter,
a beauty like no other.
She forgot to wash her socks until midnight and,
smiling her smile, asked if I could put them
in the dryer and I did…easily…again.

Who rules on any given day?
What boundaries between the roles I play
tying me to sanity?

No instructions, no models or even myths.
In all the worlds there ever were,
no one has ever been exactly like me…or you.

Or has done what we are about to attempt.
I am tempted to stop, not life, but struggle
to be more, to become what I imagine.

But a poet who is fearless,
who carries on regardless,
whose words are kind and true and honest

is more than essential for survival…
is the compassionate and dispassionate glue
that holds it all together,

or later after the fall,
uses the bricks from the wall
to make something else altogether.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2003

This poem was published in several places, including in my book, Letting Go and New Beginnings: A Mother’s Poetic Journey. I also read it on my CD, Full Blooming. Listen here.

Thank you, Joe Crookston!